Turnbull ministers meet coal interests

Two senior ministers in the Turnbull government have met investors who want to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia, as one of the country’s oldest generators begins to close down.


Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg revealed on Monday he and Resources Minister Matt Canavan had met with people interested in investing in new technology high-efficiency, low-emissions coal power plants.

“They are a long way off from confirmed commitments and clearly those discussions will continue,” Mr Frydenberg said in Canberra.

Coal and gas would continue to play major roles in future energy generation, along with renewables supported by storage.

“We need to be technology neutral,” he said.

“We can’t make a single bet because that would be ruling out certain options that would be available to us.”

Senator Canavan told News Corp there was a high degree of interest from Asian investors about developing a new power station in northern Queensland using financing from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund.

Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal has previously asked the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to get in touch if the government changes its mandate to allow it to invest in coal power, and carbon capture and storage projects.

The revelations about possible new power plants come on the same day the Hazelwood generator in Victoria starts a three-day process leading to its shut down.

In November, French majority owner Engie announced the station’s closure, saying the plant was no longer economically viable and the company was moving away from coal globally.

Meanwhile, Greens MP Adam Bandt suggested the prime minister would have blood on his hands if the commonwealth subsidised loans for new coal-fired electricity generation.

“If Malcolm Turnbull uses scarce public money to build a new coal-fired power station, he’ll have blood on his hands,” Mr Bandt said.

“Because the more coal we burn, the more extreme weather events like Cyclone Debbie or Cyclone Yasi we will see and people will suffer.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten criticised the link, saying it did a disservice to the people of north Queensland who are bracing for the impact of Debbie.